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Marvel’s New Tabletop Role Playing Game Brings The Multiverse Home

The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game lets players create their own heroes or get behind the mask … [+] of their favorite characters to tell stories with friends.

Marvel

The last time there was an official Marvel role playing game, they were still primarily known as a comic book company. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy. Superheroes were seen as a risky proposition at the box office instead of the pop culture staple they are today.

With the rise of Dungeons & Dragons in popularity it seemed inevitable that Marvel would get in on the action. Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game was announced last year with a public playtest and development period. The full game releases this week and Marvel sent a review copy of their efforts for me to evaluate.

There have been other Marvel role playing games in the past. Many gamers fondly remember Marvel Super Heroes published in 1984 as their first step away from Dungeons & Dragons style gaming. My personal favorite is Marvel Heroic Roleplaying which remains the best comic book simulator out there.

Marvel Multiverse feels more like the former than the latter. It’s got a fast system, easy character creation and dozens of comic-book characters to choose from. It wants to get D&D players to the table and punching bad guys without bogging things down with rules or trying to cram the square peg of 5e into a round superhero hole.

The d616 System

The game uses what it calls the d616 system, which requires three six sided dice to use. One should be different than the other two for use as the Marvel die. Plaayers who want official dice can find them through CMON but any six-sided dice will do.

Players roll the dice, add a modifer based on one of six attributes (Melee, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego and Logic) and try to hit a target number. If the Marvel face comes up, the die result offers a small narrative bonus. Since the Marvel die has the Marvel face on the 1, that means a 616 roll is the best in the game.

The Marvel die can offer a bonus to a successful roll or help ease the pain of failure depending on how the table interprests it. On a success, it might inflict an additional condition beyond damage during a successful hit, like Spider-Man’s webs wrapping up a foe in a hard to escape way. On a failure, it might still help a hero out, like if Cyclops’ optic blast goes wide but hits a door panel control to keep more bad guys from entering a scene.

Six Ranks of Power

The gme has massively simplified characters from the original playtest edition. The 20 levels of characters have been slimmed down to six power rankings. Rank 1 represents normal humans off the street, all the way up to rank 6 featuring big names like Professor X and Thanos. Classes have been removed to allow characters to focus on power trees. The higher the rank, the more power trees your character can take.

Characters are built from three main components: abilities, talents and tags. Abilities provide the modifier to use on a roll and the basis for any difficulty number for someone tagetting the character to beat. Talents offer rerolls of dice to bump rolls to a better places in areas where they character is an expert, such as piloting or trick shots. Tags are there to remind players of narrative character elements, such as being a mutant means that some people hate and fear the character.

There are a couple of peculiar choices in the power trees, such as Spider Powers or Shield Bearer that reflect signature Marvel characters. But these abilities are meant to be easily rethemed to fit a character concept. Squirrel Girl, for example, takes some Spider Powers to reflect her jumping and wallcrawling abilities even if she’s not actually part of the Spider-Verse.

Over One Hundred Characters

The included characters are another sign on how Marvel wants people to play this game. There are over one hundred characters detailed featuring characters from all over the Marvel Universe. If they’ve been in a Marvel movie or TV series over the past 20 years, there’s a good chance they’ve got a write-up in this section.

That means that, much like the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG from the 80s, its very easy to pick a favorite Marvel hero, sit down and start punching bad guys within minutes of deciding to play. These write-ups also serve as examples on how to build certain character types, so players who want to build a new character with, say, Hawkeye’s arrow abilities and Invisible Woman’s force fields can see how those pieces fit together.

There may be some quibbling over what characters fit in which rank, but let’s be honest. “Who could win in a fight?” is one of the oldest comic book store arguments in the world. The quickness of the character creation also makes it easy to build different versions of the same character that might reflect a more “street” level or “team” level version. The company has embraced this idea by recently announcing a Spider-Verse expansion to let players take on the roles of their favorite Spidey from the wildy successful movies.

While I love this pick up and play aspect of the game, it also leads to two criticisms of the rulebook’s layout. The first is that powers are listed alphabetically in the center of the book while power trees are illustrated in the end, which leads to a little too much page flipping for my tastes when making a character. The second is that there’s no master list of who is in the book which means everytime someone asked me if this character in the book, I had to flip through the 130 pages of character write-ups to check.

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game is an excellent choice for fans of Marvel comics who want to try out an RPG or Dungeons & Dragons fans who want to move onto a system that’s different while still having familiar elements.

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